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Dual Language Classroom at Karshner Elementary
Dual Language Classroom at Karshner Elementary
Posted on 11/14/2017
“Buenos días ¿Como estás?” This is the greeting each day in Ms. Lothrop's kindergarten class. “Bueno," one five-year old replies. "Muy bien," another student replies.

All students are learning the grammar of Spanish - even as they enter Crystal Lothrop’s kindergarten classroom at Karshner Elementary. They will learn that "Bueno" is not correct in this context.

The 14 students enrolled in Lothrop’s classroom in September are part of a dual language pilot program for the 2017-18. In this program students have the added benefit of becoming bilingual, bi-literate, and bi-cultural.  Students learn to speak, read, and write in Spanish in addition to English.

The pilot program was well received by the teachers, students, and parents in the community. “This is a great equalizer, there is not one single moment when you see a student who is being left out because they are not understanding the language,” says Becky Smith, mother of Benson, a kindergartener in Lothrop’s classroom.  “We are lucky to be a part of this program. When my husband informed me Benson would be enrolled in this program we were so excited. I hope all kids will have an opportunity to go through this experience," said Smith.

Dual LanguageThe school board approved the Spanish Dual Language pilot program last spring after it was presented by Dr. Arturo Gonzalez, director of instructional leadership, and Dr. Vince Pecchia, chief instructional leadership officer. “This program stemmed from the changing demographics, strong community interest, and changing needs.

A dual language program is considered the most effective instructional program available for students to learn a second language while also learning academic content,” said Gonzalez.

Fifty percent of the students enrolled in the dual language pilot program are English speaking and fiftyDual Language percent of the students’ primary language is Spanish. The students are taught both in Spanish and English and they are continually modeling their native language for their peers. 

Because younger children learn a second language at a faster pace, the students will have greater success in future language classes and even employment opportunities.

Participating in a second language program gives the students the benefit of increased development in problem-solving skills, mental flexibility, and critical thinking ability. It also provides a more positive and successful relationship with diverse cultures.

Lothrop is passionate to be a part of the pilot program, and she recently returned from a four-day conference that focused on dual language program design and implementation.  If the pilot program is implemented, Lothrop will assist with the design and implementation of the program.

Growing up as a Spanish first language speaker herself, Lothrop understands some of the obstacles students may face. “Growing up bi-lingual was more about how quickly can I learn English instead of embracing Spanish and my culture.

This pilot program is giving our students a real gift. It is giving them the opportunity to model and build empathy with each other in the classroom.  It also values keeping a language for native speakers and learning a second language for English speakers.

This is an amazing opportunity for the Puyallup School District. It is an opportunity for the district to create a bridge and come together as a community in addition to embracing and appreciating other cultures.” said Mrs. Lothrop.

Prior to January or February 2018 Pecchia and Gonzalez will meet with the school board for further discussion on whether to implement the program for the 2018-19 school year. “We do look forward to future conversations with the school board about this great opportunity for Karshner and the district,” said Dr. Vince Pecchia.

Anne Hogenson